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Massachusetts provided impermissible financial aid in two sports

Download the Oct. 2020 University of Massachusetts, Amherst Public Infractions Decision

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The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, impermissibly provided 12 student-athletes in men’s basketball and women’s tennis with financial aid that exceeded full cost of attendance, according to a decision released by the Division I Committee on Infractions. 

In total, Massachusetts provided more than $9,100 in excess of full cost of attendance on 13 occasions over a three-year period. Four student-athletes received a higher housing rate after they moved to less-expensive off-campus housing, and eight continued to receive a fee associated with dorm phones after they moved to off-campus housing. One student-athlete received both. The additional aid resulted in those student-athletes competing while ineligible.

The committee said the violations occurred as a result of a former associate athletics director’s misunderstanding of financial aid rules and administrative error. 

The excessive financial aid rendered the student-athletes ineligible. NCAA rules require member schools to withhold ineligible student-athletes from competition until their eligibility is restored, regardless of the school’s knowledge. 

“When an institution makes a mistake, it is accountable for the consequences of that mistake,” the panel said in its decision. “Here, the mistake was providing excessive aid, and the consequence was the requirement to withhold ineligible student-athletes from competition.”

The committee noted that the school’s financial aid distribution and monitoring processes properly awarded aid in 98% of cases during that same time period. As a result, the committee determined that the violations did not demonstrate a failure-to-monitor violation.

“UMass implemented reasonable monitoring practices, including real-time review and end-of-year audits,” the panel said. “On 13 occasions involving unique circumstances, UMass failed to identify and correct financial aid overage payments.”

The committee classified the case as Level II-mitigated for the university. The committee used the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines to prescribe the following measures: 

  • Two years of probation, from Oct. 16, 2020, through Oct. 15, 2022. 
  • A $5,000 fine (self-imposed by the university). 
  • A vacation of records of contests in which student-athletes participated while ineligible. 

The university must provide a written report containing the contests impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 14 days of the public release of the decision.

Due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hearing for this case was held virtually. 

Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from the NCAA membership and members of the public. The members of the panel who reviewed this case are Norman Bay, attorney in private practice; Thomas Hill, senior vice president emeritus at Iowa State; Jason Leonard, executive director of athletics compliance at Oklahoma; Vincent Nicastro, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the Big East Conference; Joseph D. Novak, former head football coach at Northern Illinois; Larry Parkinson, director of enforcement for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and David M. Roberts, chief hearing officer and special assistant to the athletics director at Southern California.